Two

Over the Moon

Mar
05

Review of The Moonbase (#33)
DVD Release Date: 11 Feb 14
Original Air Date: 11 Feb - 04 Mar 1967
Doctor/Companion: Two, Ben Jackson, Polly Wright, Jamie McCrimmon
Stars: Patrick Troughton, Michael Craze, Anneke Wills, Frazer Hines
Preceding Story: The Underwater Menace (Two, Ben, Polly, Jamie)
Succeeding Story: The Macra Terror (Two, Ben, Polly, Jamie)

I'm rather behind the curve on this one. Not only was the Region 1 release three weeks later than the Region 2 release (as has often been the case), but it also fell on the day before I left for this year's Gally. So I'm afraid I'm not exactly at the cutting edge here, but perhaps not all of my readers were in a rush anyway.

For completionist fans like me, this isn't precisely a new release. Though two of the four episodes are still missing, the existing ones have been available for quite some time as part of the Lost in Time box set, so I've actually seen half of the serial before. However, the addition of the animated reconstructions makes a big difference.

There's a great deal to be said for the black and white era when it comes to tone. Something about it transcends the dated effects and lends an extra sense of tension to all the scary bits. To say such episodes are "atmospheric" might be cliché, but it doesn't make it less true.

To my mind, the Cybermen are primarily responsible for that creepy, nerves-on-edge sensation one gets so often during The Moonbase. In only their second-ever appearance, they've already been upgraded, if you will, to look even less human. While that change might remove the audience a step from the body horror, I contend the modification to the voices—a more buzzing, mechanical sound—more than makes up for it.

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Atmos-Fear-ic

Oct
19

Review of The Web of Fear (#41)

iTunes Release Date: 11 Oct 13
Original Air Date: 03 Feb - 09 Mar 1968
Doctor/Companion: Two, Jamie McCrimmon, Victoria Waterfield
Stars: Patrick Troughton, Frazer Hines, Deborah Watling
Preceding Story: The Enemy of the World (Two, Jamie, Victoria)
Succeeding Story: Fury from the Deep (Two, Jamie, Victoria)

The recovery of two back-to-back stories from the sorely underrepresented Troughton era of the show feels almost too good to be true (though them being found together makes a fair amount of sense). Yet here they are, and The Web of Fear starts up where the cliffhanger ending of The Enemy of the World left off.

Episode One isn't what's got Who fans' collective panties in a bunch, though; it's the only one that had remained in the archives. So although watching the cliffhanger resolution is more meaningful in context, having seen Enemy Episode Six for oneself, what follows is the familiar setup we've already seen (that is, if one had bothered to track down a copy). It is, in essence, your basic "our heroes get themselves into a pickle" episode.

The magic begins in the previously unavailable Episode Two. While I've never listened to the surviving soundtrack by itself (there's only so much I can afford!), I know there are plenty of people who have, and have no doubt imagined how it played out on screen (I'm actually curious how many fan recons have been made, and how close they got). As with the other recovery, the decades-unseen effects are one of the key questions to be answered. We get a much better sense of what the Yetis look like (The Abominable Snowmen, their only other story, remains lost), and get to see the (thankfully limited) fungus effects. I'm sure moments like the Doctor and Anne testing out the control box on the sphere were also particularly difficult to envision.

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Friend of My Heart

Oct
16

Review of The Enemy of the World (#40)

iTunes Release Date: 11 Oct 13
Original Air Date: 23 Dec 1967 - 27 Jan 1968
Doctor/Companion: Two, Jamie McCrimmon, Victoria Waterfield
Stars: Patrick Troughton, Frazer Hines, Deborah Watling
Preceding Story: The Ice Warriors (Two, Jamie, Victoria)
Succeeding Story: The Web of Fear (Two, Jamie, Victoria)

I can't even describe the thrill I felt watching The Enemy of the World unfold before my very eyes. I'd long since inured myself to the idea that my only chance to see Troughton in his double role as the Doctor and Salamander was to watch Episode Three, which had previously been the only one remaining in the archives. And while I'd read both a full synopsis and the BBC's photonovelization before, it's a completely different experience to see it for oneself.

For anyone who has never seen the Second Doctor in action, you could hardly ask for a better introduction. I'll admit it's probably an advantage to know him so one can appreciate the differences between Troughton's two characters better, but the story itself is a real cracker. Each episode unfolds another layer of intrigue until we see what a truly tangled web the players have woven.

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Once Bitten, Twice—OH MY GIDDY AUNT!

Oct
10

Over the last several months, a Who fan would have had to have been hiding under a rock not to have heard the rumors that missing episodes of First and Second Doctor serials had been found. There was the hype, the counter-hype, the supposed confirmations, the supposed denials, back and forth for months. The lost episodes are like the Holy Grail of Doctor Who, so fans have understandably been by turns excited beyond words and bitterly disappointed.

This last week, the rumor surfaced again. Several outlets of various degrees of reliability broke the "news"—first the Mirror claimed on Sunday that all 106 had been found. On Monday the Radio Times reported that an unnamed number of "episodes" would be made available for purchase on Wednesday, then reversed and said the press conference wouldn't be till Thursday. On Tuesday, the BBC itself posted a story. Although fandom considered it all old news by then, having word come down from Auntie Beeb herself certainly seemed like the "official word" many of us had been waiting for before going off the deep end in ecstasy.

By Tuesday evening, there was a post on Deborah Watling's (who played Companion Victoria Waterfield to Patrick Troughton's Two) official website saying that she and Frazer Hines (Jamie McCrimmon) would "be helping the BBC to launch the newly found Dr.Who episodes" sometime on Thursday.

Even then, I was only barely ready to believe. I skeptically predicted at most two recovered episodes.

There have been so many times that this rumor has surfaced. It's bubbled up and been smacked back down, and each time I've either allowed or been unable to prevent myself from believing, at least a little bit. And I tell you, I'm as rabid as any fan—I would give a helluva lot to see even one missing episode returned, no matter how poorly thought of the serial. The ache in my heart at the very thought is intense.

But I've been burned so many times. After the first rumor was "debunked" months ago, I was crushed. "Once bitten, twice shy!" I told myself the next time. Even so, a glimmer of hope remained. Then it was denied again, and I chastised myself: "Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me!" Oh, how I wanted to believe it every single time! How sad and exasperated I was—"I told you it was a hoax..."—each time it was proven false!

Then came Thursday.

Revival of the Fittest

Sep
25

Review of The Ice Warriors (#39)
DVD Release Date: 10 Sep 13
Original Air Date: 11 Nov - 16 Dec 1967
Doctor/Companion: Two, Jamie McCrimmon, Victoria Waterfield
Stars: Patrick Troughton, Frazer Hines, Deborah Watling
Preceding Story: The Abominable Snowmen (Two, Jamie, Victoria)
Succeeding Story: The Enemy of the World (Two, Jamie, Victoria)

For some reason, Troughton's second season (Season 5, by the original count) was into cold climes. Starting things off with the cryogenic Tomb of the Cybermen, it proceeded on to Tibet and The Abominable Snowmen before landing the TARDIS crew in the glacier-covered future wasteland of The Ice Warriors.

Regardless of the seeming repetition of setting, I was glad to see another Troughton story I hadn't had the privilege of watching before. Even when you've read a blow-by-blow plot synopsis, seeing it on the screen in front of you is a different kettle of fish. Besides, how can anyone resist any performance involving that infamous cosmic hobo?

As with many early stories, one has to take this one with a largish grain of salt. Not only are the Ice Warriors' creature costumes ridiculously unconvincing (its the rubber mouths that don't move in sync with the actors' jaws that really does it), but the science is sorely outdated. The idea that extreme deforestation (not that the script calls it that) would lead to less carbon dioxide in the atmosphere might have been a believable hypothesis at the time, but these days we're seeing the opposite effect. So the very premise comes across as extremely retro-futuristic.

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